Tuesday, November 2, 2010


In this age of conflict over abortion it might be interesting to read the news of one hundred years ago. A judge ruled that life begins at birth and not before, and used the Bible as part of his rationale.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Year Of Political Insanity

America has a long history of anti-intellectualism, but this election year is something much more than that. It is almost as if some infectious form of insanity (ergot poisoning?) has seized a large portion of the population and set them into a fool’s dance of self destruction. Of course the drumbeat for this dance is courtesy of FOX News. If Hitler had had FOX he wouldn’t have needed to burn the Reichstag or employ the services of Joseph Goebbels. FOX would say it and people would believe it. I have encountered more lunatic statements this year than ever before. A few examples: “Obama is a Muslim”, “Obama was born in Kenya”, “Obama wants to sell out our country to (you fill it in)”, “If you are a progressive you are a Communist”. This is not just normal political hyperbole. This is racism, and the members of the TEA party, and other right wing fringe groups now brought into the spotlight are preaching “Americanism”. If we don’t agree with them we are Godless Communists, and need to be exposed by Glen Beck. The last time I recall the term “Americanism” being used was in the 1920’s, and then by the Ku Klux Klan. So much about the TEA party reminds me of the Klan of the 1920’s: misplaced anger, rampant xenophobia, viewing anyone who disagrees as a “Progressive=Socialist= Communist” according to Glen Beck, the tear shedding, sometimes hysteric orator and hero of these folks. An ideological test is needed in their opinion to decide if you are a patriot: if you love your country. If you don’t agree with them, you’re a Communist trying to subvert the educational system and ruin the nation. Quack history is used to label Franklin Roosevelt as a Communist. I have even heard Glen Beck say that FDR caused the war. Honest to goodness. Do they have to try to fight the New Deal all these prosperous years later? That seems to be the agenda. According to them teachers are part of a plot to brainwash all children to accept a Socialist takeover. At one time people would have nervously laughed at such over the top paranoids. But now- now there is a willingness to believe any sort of conspiracy theory as an explanation for the failures of our society. After all, we couldn’t as a people be responsible for our own woes, so it must be some group of evil manipulators infiltrating us to bring us down. Education is failing our children we hear. It’s the bad teachers. But maybe, just maybe it is the bad parenting, the lack of time spent, the dearth of expectations that children study and learn. It’s just too easy and simple to say it is the bad teachers and their bad unions. And so they go running after bogeymen, after scapegoats, and there is no end of Glen Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh’s willing to get rich convincing you that it is all a conspiracy of the left. And apparently people believe it. They seem willing to flock to the polls to vote for people who will privatize their Social Security, end their Unemployment benefits, deny them health care, and pander to the rich sharks who run this country and the co-opted religionists who carry their water. I think that Lincoln may have been wrong with regard to Americans when he said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time”. It is starting to look to me like you sure can – with enough money behind you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Timely Criticism of Big Money and Right Wing Religion

“The people have had of late no word in making and executing the laws; not more than five hundred men are the sovereign of the land and those are controlled by a religious faction on the one hand and moneyed sharks on the other. The republic, founded upon the principles of liberality and equality, is being transformed into a dogmatic hierarchy, under the assumption of being the only representations of law and order, and under this guise or pretext, they make war upon those who differ with them. If this crew of hypocrites, political and religious manipulators, were sailing under their true colors – a sect of religious fanatics of the old Puritan school – they would not be permitted to control State legislatures, cities and villages throughout the country. Laws have been enacted contrary to the spirit of true Democracy, as well as contrary to true Christianity.” ----- The Blunderbuss, Lancaster Wisconsin, July 1874

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Pleasures of a Camera and a Flower

I admit it. I love to photograph flowers. They show an endless display of colors and shapes. They just make me feel renewed and energized. Lots of people look at flowers, but not many really see them. Few look at them from all angles, compose them within their milieu, and look for the deeper meanings about life that they convey. A flower is a master of survival, but it uses its beauty to survive. For what it needs to live it gives back an enjoyment equaled by few things in this life. Maybe that is why, at this time of year most of us make our annual pilgrimage to purchase flowers to plant around our homes. What would springtime be without flowers?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Slandering Government Workers - What else is new?

I posted a very good CBS news editorial by Ben Stein defending Government Workers as hard working and even heroic. You can see that at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/03/28/sunday/main6340942.shtml

Very quickly came the reply from a friend which is so typical of what is being used by Republican Demagogues. They live off selling the myth that Government can't do anything right. Here is my friends statement and my reply:

Comment of RS:
Ben is not talking about the shiftless do-nothings that work at the state level, and probably also for the Feds who schmooze those above them without doing any work at all but are pushed up the ladder merely because they have tenure. This includes those in civil service positions as well as some teachers (by the way ask any truly hard working teacher off the record and they will tell you horror stories of some of those with tenure). Certainly those people are also in the private sector but are much less likely to last because of the shear urgency they are dealing with due to private industry profit margins, deadlines, etc. that are pushed under the rug in government jobs because tax dollars will always be there. Before you accuse me of just "walking the Republican line", stop now because I know of many instances due to relatives and friends who are in or are married to quality gov't workers. Face it, gov't workers are NOT NEARLY under the same scrutiny of private sector workers.
My Reply:
Almost everything you say above is just wrong. It is what you hear but not what I saw as a government worker. I have seen just as many lazy schmoozers in private business, and most businesses are not on the edge. Dilbert is too often a true reflection of the private corporate world. I was always amazed when on boards or committees with private business people at what ditherers they were. Couldn't make a decision, couldn't act, wanted to do ridiculously wasteful things. I think there is a reason why private insurers need 17% overhead and Medicare has under 3%. It is the shear waste of high paid corner office types, ridiculous profit margins in what are virtual monopolies, and convention and traveling costs to party. That isn't government - its private business. In the private business world all you need is a corner office to hide in, while in government service we were always under the gun, short staffed, and suffering slanders like the one you just made. Imagine how it is to work hard and have your bosses (the politicians) demean and defame you for political gain. How strange to hear this critique when private corporations and banks have, by their incompetence, nearly ruined the country and bankrupted us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform Passes

Health Care legislation has been passed! I hope future workers at Social Security never have to listen to a dying man explain that he didn't go to the doctor because he couldn't afford to, and so is leaving a wife and children alone in the world. I heard that story all too often. Failure to view health care as a human right was the shame of our nation. Hopefully we are rectifying that sin.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Waiting On The Past

I volunteered to work two days a week at the Cunningham Museum in Lancaster, Wisconsin. This is a historical museum operated by the county historical society. They operate on a shoe string budget, and try to preserve the history of the people who live here. I sit in the museum for hours. People walk by and never even glance my way. It is like the photos I review to pass the time. These photos, of this town, were taken over one hundred years ago. People strolling down the street, old men sitting in front of stores watching the passing scene.

Few dwell upon the shortness of their time on earth. If they are lucky, someone may take a photo while they pass and a hundred years from now someone like me may look in on a bygone day, may gaze in on the life of someone known but to God. Why is it that most of us fear to look into the face of the past? Is it simple disinterest or is there a real fear associated with the avoidance? we see ourselves when we visit this or any other historical museum. We see bits and pieces of what others now long dead held, wore, read, and treasured. It is sometimes too much to think of our place in time - of the shortness of our lives - of the small impression we make on events of our time. It sometimes seems that we make no impression at all on the future. Is that true?

I have spent some time thinking about the way I am and the beliefs I hold. Where did these come from? When I look into the past of my family and lands of my ancestors I begin to see threads connecting me to my ancestral past. Why was my great grandfather Wallace so anti-catholic that he reputedly joined the Ku Klux Klan? He was born in Northern Ireland, but always said he was Scotch. To know why he was as he was read the history of the troubles in that land. My family are overwhelmingly protestant fundamentalists, who believe in baptism by immersion. To find out why that may be read about Alexander Carson, who was minister in Tobermore, the village my great grandfather came from in the 1870's. Carson wrote one of the most influential books advocating adult baptism by immersion.

So what is my impact to be in the years after the physical being is over? Simply stated, I have no idea, but I believe that there will be echoes of me in my children and grandchildren, and that is the pull of history. History is inescapable and its record grows endlessly. Maybe one of these days, just out of curiosity, one of those passing by will stop and take a look at the museum. Maybe that visit will help them to find themselves.

A Revolutionary War Ancestor

Nicholas Winter is the only one of my ancestors who I know of that fought in the revolutionary war. He left a Pension Application which gave me the story of his service, and what a story it is. You can download and read it at:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is Anyone Afraid of the Atomic Bomb?

It was really frightening. The prospect thrown before us of destruction. Whole cities blown away in a rush of hypersonic wind. Darkness falling over the land. Radioactive fallout causing grotesque skin lesions. Death all round. Childhood in the 1950's. President Kennedy announcing that ballistic missiles were in Cuba. Blockading, and waiting for the collision of nations. We grew up with a very realistic and fearful image of the destructive power now in the hands of man. We were afraid.

I wonder if anyone is afraid now? A certain fatalistic nihilism has taken away our overt dread and our children play games simulating all sorts of destruction. But it is just a game. The line between reality and fantasy is transparent jello. The Nintendo has helped us escape into a universe of virtual denial. Is this a good thing? Do our children know what real war is? Predators fly on the borders of Pakistan seeking out enemies, controlled by former video game players in darkened rooms in Virginia. Do we conceptualize at all the meaning of mutual assured destruction. Did the Atomic specter walk behind a veil and disappear? Perched at the precipice of extinction, as we have been since the first bomb fell on Hiroshima, we plunge into the next video game and count our points.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stopping Terrorists

The critics are out in force. On Christmas day Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab made it on a plane bound for Detroit with explosives sewn into his underwear. It appears his Al Qaeda training occurred in Yemen. What do we do now? Invade Yemen? Many of these critics have decried those who want to treat terrorists like criminals and hunt them down. Many of these critics say we have to stop being “politically correct” and profile those who are most likely to be terrorists, namely young Muslim men.

My question is this: how do you stop a terrorist from crossing our border or flying on a plane by putting 50 ton tanks and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers halfway around the world? The answer always is that this country or that is the “training ground” for terrorists. Haven’t we found, however that the training ground can be anywhere – Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Jordan, and even our country and Europe. The concept of deploying massive force is not adding to our security. In fact it is weakening and bankrupting us.

We need human intelligence to find and selectively destroy these “training grounds” Could we have rooted out organized crime by occupying a few large American cities with armed forces at tremendous cost? Probably not. We are just as unlikely to do it with a policy of attacking and occupying nations half a world away. How about the calls to “realistically” profile travelers? If we treat all American Muslims as presumptive enemy combatants we can be sure that will drive a number of them to the enemy. Should we give more intrusive examination to Muslims on international flights than to others? Richard Reed was British, and Jose Padilla is a Brooklyn born Hispanic. Wouldn’t “realistic non politically correct” profiling just blind us to the next terrorist in our zeal to investigate the “likely” terrorists?

It seems to me that viewing terrorists as organized criminals makes a lot more sense than treating them as enemies who can be trampled by massive military force. You can send an Elephant to trample the ants, but the ants will just scatter, and your house will be crushed. It costs a lot to feed the Elephant too. Perhaps something more selective and effective should be tried.